Do Small Businesses Have to Offer Health Insurance? Exploring the Options

Running a small business comes with its fair share of challenges and decisions to make. One crucial aspect that business owners often ponder is, “do small businesses have to offer health insurance?” While there is no simple “yes” or “no” answer, understanding the options and regulations can help you make an informed decision that suits both your business and your employees’ needs. In this blog post, we’ll explore the topic of small business health insurance and shed light on the different possibilities available.

"Do Small Businesses Have To Offer Health Insurance? Exploring The Options" is written above an image of a business owner and 2 employees in the background on a laptop

Understanding the Legal Requirements


Small businesses are not legally mandated to provide health insurance coverage to their employees unless they have 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (FTEs). The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, introduced the employer mandate, which requires businesses with 50 or more FTEs to offer affordable health insurance that meets specific criteria, or face potential penalties.


For small businesses with fewer than 50 FTEs, offering health insurance is entirely optional. However, it’s important to consider the potential benefits of providing health coverage to attract and retain talented employees.

The Benefits of Offering Health Insurance

While not required, providing health insurance can be a strategic move for small businesses. Here are a few reasons why offering health coverage can be beneficial:

Attracting Top Talent

In today’s competitive job market, offering health insurance can give your business an edge when it comes to attracting skilled employees. Many candidates prioritize health benefits when considering job offers, so providing coverage can make your business more appealing.

Along with creating a positive work environment, providing competitive pay and health benefits can certainly help draw in top candidates.

Employee Retention

Offering health insurance can enhance employee loyalty and retention. When employees have access to affordable healthcare, they are more likely to stay with your company, reducing turnover costs and maintaining a stable workforce.

When an employer offers health insurance, it sends a powerful message to employees: we care about you and your well-being. And when employees feel valued and cared for, they’re not only happier in their job, but they’re also more likely to stick around for the long haul.

Tax Advantages

Small businesses that offer health insurance may be eligible for tax benefits. Depending on your tax regulations, you may be able to deduct premiums or qualify for The Small Business Healthcare Tax Credit. 

Here’s how you can qualify for the Small Business Healthcare Tax Credit:

  • Have fewer than 25 full-time employees
  • Ensure the average employee salary is $56,000 or less
  • Offer coverage to all of your full-time staff
  • Pay at least 50% of employees’ premium costs

But here’s the best part – the federal tax credit is even higher for businesses with fewer than 10 employees who earn $27,000 or less on average. Consulting with a tax professional can help you understand the specific advantages available to your business.

Options for Small Business Health Insurance

If you decide to offer health insurance, you have several options to explore:

Group Health Insurance

Group health insurance plans provide coverage for a group of employees and sometimes their dependents. These plans often offer more comprehensive coverage at a lower cost due to pooling risk among a larger group. To be eligible, a business must have a minimum of one full-time (or equivalent) employee who is not related to its owner or spouse. Both employers and insured individuals share premium costs associated with group plans. Employees may also choose to add family members and dependents at additional cost.

SHOP Marketplace

The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) is a platform created under the ACA to help small businesses find and compare health insurance plans. It offers a range of coverage options and potential tax credits.

If you have between 1 and 50 employees, you can enroll in the SHOP plans  through an insurance company or with the help of a SHOP-registered agent or broker.

Private Health Insurance

Small businesses can also explore private health insurance options in the market. Working with an insurance broker can help you navigate the available plans and find the best fit for your business and employees.

Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA)

An HRA is an employer-funded account that reimburses employees for qualified medical expenses. This option allows businesses to set a fixed budget while providing employees with flexibility in choosing their own health insurance plans.

The most common HRA types to choose from to offer your employees are ICHRAs (Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements), EBHRAs (Excepted Benefit HRAs), and QSEHRAs (Qualified Small Employer HRAs). 


While small businesses are not required to offer health insurance, doing so can provide numerous advantages. Offering health coverage can help attract and retain skilled employees, contribute to a positive work environment, and potentially provide tax benefits. 

By understanding your options, such as group health insurance, SHOP Marketplace, private insurance, or HRAs, you can tailor a solution that aligns with your business goals and budget. Remember to consult with insurance professionals, tax advisors, and legal experts to ensure you make the best decision for your small business. If you would like to get a free, no-obligation quote for group health insurance simply enter your zip code in the bar below or give us a call at  (877) 658-2374.

Picture of Sydney Berry
Sydney Berry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Free Group Quotes Instantly

Compare Plans Side-by-Side